Hospital Sustainability Gets Shot in the Arm: 80% Now Expected to Consider Sustainable Product Purchasing

Erol Odabasi
October 6, 2014
Sustainable Brands
It’s that time of year: vaccine season — your local hospital is probably already advertising free flu shots. But this fall, something’s different. If your provider is like the 300 global healthcare professionals my company, Johnson & Johnson, and Harris Poll recently surveyed, chances are your hospital has “gone green” — 80 percent of global respondents now expect their hospitals will consider sustainability when purchasing products within the next two years. 
Sustainability in the healthcare space has been on the rise for some time and, according to the new study, 54 percent of healthcare professionals across six countries (United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Brazil and Japan) now report that their hospital already incorporates sustainability into its purchasing decisions. This means that, in addition to price, quality, and outcomes, a majority of healthcare purchasers are also evaluating products based on environmental criteria, and that they are looking for products that are more energy-efficient, free of materials of concern such as PVC (polyvinyl chloride), and have a lower environmental impact after use.
How sustainable is healthcare?
Click for full-size infographic.
Why the anticipated boom? I believe new and continued collaborations among suppliers, Group Purchasing Organizations (GPOs) and healthcare providers to provide standardized tools has given hospitals the “shot in the arm” they need to prioritize Environmental Purchasing Policies (EPPs). While sustainability was once seen as “nice to have,” organizations such as Practice Greenhealth and the Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council have helped hospitals see the business case for sustainability, and our survey found that global healthcare professionals now associate real, tangible benefits with purchasing responsibly made products, including:
  • Help protect hospital staff (78 percent)
  • Make overall good financial sense (69 percent),
  • Serve as an important factor for patients when choosing a hospital (60 percent), and
  • Improve health outcomes (55 percent).
This news is great for the organizations that have championed the development and purchase of sustainable products, but it also poses new challenges. To sustain and even increase the adoption of EPPs, we must increase the availability of environmentally responsible products to match growing demands and help decision-makers prove the benefits of sustainability.
In the past several years, companies like Sterilmed, BD and Kimberly-Clark have worked hard to increase their sustainable product pipelines, yet global healthcare professionals report cost (80 percent) and availability (69 percent) as major barriers to purchasing more of these products. At Johnson & Johnson, we are working to apply lifecycle thinking across our entire company, and have instituted new standards for assessing new products and packaging against environmental criteria. Our Earthwards® approach has also recognized sustainability improvements for more than 55 products across our Johnson & Johnson portfolio, and we are working to address another interesting finding from the Harris Poll: nearly all (92 percent) of U.S. healthcare professionals want manufacturers to provide more information about the sustainable benefits of medical products.